Reflections on 2011: Books

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2010 was, for us, a crazy year. We moved twice, sold a ton of our belongings, worked like crazy and barely had a moment to breath. Naturally, there was zero time to relax and read books, which just happens to be one of my favorite things in the world to do!

So, when 2011 started and we moved to Italy I set a goal to read one book a month. This may seem like a lot to some or paltry to others, but it was my goal...and after I year where I read exactly one book, it was something I would have to actively work at.

I'm happy to report that I met and surpassed my goal of 12 books! Last night I actually finished my 14th book and I decided it was time to share my reading list. I didn't read one "stinker" all year and for that I'm very grateful! My list is below, but now I'm wondering...what books did you read in 2011 that I should add to my list for 2012?

This Side of Paradise - F. Scott Fitzgerald's first book blew. my. mind. It is my new favorite book and Amory Blaine is one of my all-time favorite characters from a fiction novel. The book was seen as very modern, new and special in 1920 when it was initially published and I swear it feels modern, new and special even now.

The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family - I've read this book twice now and will definitely be back to read it again in a few years. This family is exceptional and the ways in which they are weaved into British (and world!) history is mind-blowing. The second time around I followed the history and vast array of characters much better.

Night - Elie Wiesel's Night has been on my list (and my bookshelf) for years. I brought it with me during a trip to the Questura earlier in the year and read it cover to cover during the 7 hours(!) we spent there. It is beautiful, sad, heartbreaking and hopeful.

If This is a Man and The Truce - When I told my friend Georgette how moved I was by Night, she insisted I read Primo Levi's account of his experience during the Holocaust. This book will bring out every emotion inside of you. It's one of the most beautifully written books I've ever read. I think everyone should be required to read Wiesel's and Levi's books.

Bossypants - Tina Fey is a genius. At times, this book had me laughing so hard that I couldn't breath and/or was crying. In addition to her hilarious stories, her practical advice for women (um, be nice to each other!) is fabulous.

Where You Left Me - A touching story written by a 9/11 widow. I think it's important that we never forget what happened that day and understanding the pain it caused on an individual level is exceptionally important. Jennifer Gardner Trulson's book made me sad and happy all at once.

Water for Elephants - I don't know what inspired me to buy this on my iPad earlier in the year, but I'm glad I did. Sara Gruen's book about carnival performers in the early 20th century was entertaining and full of adventure. As you can see, my reading list can get a bit heavy at times, so it's nice to lighten things up a bit. A great romance and lots of intrigue make this a great book!

Friday Night Lights - After Rob and I blew through the entire TV series in the span of two months, I decided to pick up the book that inspired the movie and the series. It's a fascinating look at life in Texas in the 1980's...I wonder though, has that much really changed?

Favorite Wife - I have yet to find a book about polygamy that doesn't fascinate me! Susan Ray Schmidt's true story of her early life married to one of the most notorious polygamists ever is the definition of a page-turner!

Two Kisses for Maddy - I've been following Matt Logelin's blog for three years and it meant a lot to me to be able to read this book and learn more about his experiences. I appreciate every thing he's accomplished even more.

What's Going on in There? - I know everyone is going to get all suspicious that there's a baby book on my list, but the truth is Rob and I bought this while we were living with my parents and we were fascinated by watching my youngest nephew learn and develop. Babies are seriously fascinating creatures! The book got a little science-heavy for me at times, but it always had me nudging Rob and saying things like "Did you know the sense of smell..."

The Help - Everyone was talking about this book, so I decided that I had to read it. I wasn't disappointed. The narrative is well-written and the stories of each of the main characters are woven together so well. I watched the movie recently and although it wasn't bad, it doesn't hold a candle to this great book!

What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day - This vintage Oprah's Book Club choice was fantastic (seriously, Oprah is a goddess and rarely steers me wrong). Pearl Cleage's novel about a woman living with HIV was sensitively, yet realistically, written and made me root for the main character the entire book.

World War Z - What happened to the girl that HATED scary stuff? Ever since The Walking Dead started last year, I can't get enough zombie in my life! World War Z is written as a report of an oral history project ten years after the end of World War Z, when mankind was almost decimated by zombies. Sooo good. I can't wait to see what the movie (starring Brad Pitt!) is going to be like.